Project Costa Rica: Costa Rica's Journey to a Peaceful Society

Peace monument plays part in Costa Rican history

by April Stanley

The monument at the University for Peace honors  many leaders of Costa Rica.
The monument at the University for Peace honors
many leaders of Costa Rica.

The "Monument to Disarmament, Work and Peace" displays several characteristics of Costa Rica's historical and political uniqueness. The monument honors Costa Ricans who have made outstanding efforts in building and maintaining peace.

This work of art, sculpted by Cuban artist Thelvia Marín in 1987, is the world's largest peace monument. It includes nine 12-foot columns hosting a sculpture on each side. The columns are lined up in a spiral, symbolizing the infinite quest for peace. Images on the outside of each column depict a historic moment of Costa Rica's growth and strides toward peace, while the inward facing image shows the leader influential in the effort.

One column hosts an image of two figures reading a newspaper.

On the inner side is the sculpted face of former president Juan Mora Fernández who fought for liberty of the press. This right was granted to Costa Rican citizens in Article 29 of the Constitution which is quoted beneath the art.

It reads, "Everyone can express their thoughts verbally or in writing, and publish them with no previous censure."

Another sculpture depicts one figure removing a blindfold from another with Article 21 of the Constitution quoted below. It reads, "Human life is inviolable." This article abolished the death penalty. On the opposite side is Tomas Guardia Gutierrez, president from 1870-1882. Guardia's wife had been emotionally distraught for many years due to the absence of her father and uncle, who had participated in a revolution, in her life.

Her uncle was sentenced to death and her father being exiled.

For years she advocated abolishing the death penalty, and on their 25th wedding anniversary, Guardia abolished the death penalty in Article 21.

The next column displays a figure studying, surrounded by many books. Underneath is a quote from Simón Bolívar, who liberated five South American states, which reads, "Morals and enlightenment, our primary necessities." On the inner side of the column is the face of Jesus Jiménez Zamora who made primary education free in 1865.

The next sculpture shows a figure using a hammer to destroy the wall of a building, duplicating a famous picture of former president Jose Figueres symbolically breaking the wall of the army headquarters when he abolished the army in 1948.